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10/21/2022 12:42 PM

Warriors Succeeding in Warren’s Second Tenure

Senior Kendra Cika and the Valley Regional girls’ soccer team are sporting an overall record of 5-1-5 in Lloyd Warren’s second tenure as the program’s head coach this year. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier Photo courtesy of Wesley Bunnell
Senior Isabella Giuliano (left) and the Warriors took their first loss of the year with a defeat against Old Lyme last week, but came back to grab a 2-1 win over Montville for their fifth victory on the campaign. Pictured on the left is senior captain Olivia Baldwin. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier Photo courtesy of Wesley Bunnell

When Lloyd Warren returned to coach at Valley Regional High School, his main goal was to restore enthusiasm for girls’ soccer in the community. While the participation within the Warriors’ program is down from the level that he would like, Coach Warren feels pleased to see that the winning is beginning to tick back up for Valley Regional.

Valley is sporting a record of 5-1-5 in its first season of Warren’s second tenure as the program’s head coach. The Warriors took their first loss of the year with a 2-1 defeat to Old Lyme last week, but bounced right back with a 2-1 win over Montville a few days later. Valley has five games remaining in the regular season before the team competes in the playoffs this fall.

“We’ve had a positive start. Being unbeaten so long was something that was a little unexpected,” said Coach Warren. “This is my second time with the program, so we’re achieving a different kind of success, I guess.”

It sure didn’t take long. The Warriors recorded points in their first nine contests of the season before taking a 2-1 road loss against Old Lyme on Oct. 11. Senior Grace Abderhalden scored Valley’s goal on a free kick in the 23rd minute of the game, giving the Warriors a 1-0 lead. Valley took their one-goal edge into halftime, but Old Lyme scored a pair of goals in the second half and went on to get the victory. Senior captain goalie Elizabeth Allen made 9 saves in net for Valley Regional.

On Oct. 14, the Warriors hosted Montville for a non-conference game and prevailed by a 2-1 score. Senior captain Reagan Doyon put Valley on the board when she scored an unassisted goal directly off a corner kick in the 29th minute of the contest. Montville came back with a goal six minutes later to make it 1-1 at halftime. With just 40 seconds left in the game, Abderhalden scored off a free kick to give the Warriors the lead for good with a 2-1 advantage. Allen made 7 saves in net for Valley in the win.

With an overall record of 5-1-5, the Warriors have already matched last year’s win total and have qualified for the Class M State Tournament. Overall, Coach Warren feels satisfied with how everything is going for the Warriors as they enter the home stretch of the regular season.

“There’s a few more ties than we would have liked. A different day, a few of those ties could be wins for us,” Warren said. “But they are positive results. We can compete against anybody.”

Coach Warren points to several reasons why Valley Regional is seeing a resurgence on the scoreboard this season. One is the biggest reasons is the leadership that’s being provided by senior class of 10 athletes that includes captains Allen, Doyon, and Olivia Baldwin. The trio is earning rave reviews.

“They’re players that were joining the program as I left last time. I knew of them and the talent that they had,” said Warren, who had recently served as an assistant coach for the women’s soccer program at Mitchell College for the past three years. “They are definitely leaders of the program. They’re creating a good environment for players. Each of them offer something slightly different.”

Allen has been a stalwart in net with

4 shutouts on the season. Baldwin and Doyon have helped stabilize the midfield for the Warriors. The other members of Valley’s senior class are Adberhalden, Eileen Russell, Kendra Cika, Anna Benson, Erin Brennan, Chloe Clark, and Isabella Giuliano.

Meanwhile, junior Emilee Surber has been a key cog for Valley’s offense this year. Surber has 3 goals to go with 5 assists on the campaign.

Coach Warren said that chemistry has been a driving force behind his team’s success this season. That type of cohesion made it easier for Warren to blend back into the program in short order. Warren, whose first stint at Valley Regional was from 2016-’19, didn’t make wholesale changes upon returning. Instead, Warren entrusted Valley’s seniors to lead the team, and he feels that they’re doing a solid job in that regard.

“We really are a collective unit. They all want to succeed together,” Warren said. “They know each other so well, and they have experience.”

The early returns have been promising for Coach Warren and company this fall. There was a 3-0 shutout of North Branford/Hale-Ray to begin the season. That was followed by draws against East Hampton (2-2) and Old Saybrook (0-0) and then a 4-1 victory over Haddam-Killingworth. The Warriors have also earned wins over Old Lyme (4-2) and Fitch (2-0), along with ties versus Woodstock Academy (1-1), Portland (1-1), and Coginchaug (0-0).

With Valley taking its first loss of the season last week, Coach Warren was eager to see how the Warriors would respond when they faced Montville a few days later. Valley won the game by a 2-1 score for its fifth victory of the campaign.

“The first loss, it obviously had to come at some point. We’ve had so many tight games, there was every chance that one could slide away from us,” Warren said. “We haven’t really dealt with any adversity through this season. This is the moment for our captains to step up and galvanize the group.”

Coach Warren knows that Valley has other athletes that he can count on to contribute on the pitch. This includes players like junior Riley Soares and freshman Madelyn Riebold.

“She’s been absolutely fantastic in the back,” said Warren of Soares, a defender. “She’s part of the reason why we’ve had so many clean sheets. Her fearless defending has been really positive.”

With the regular season coming to a close, Coach Warren wants to see his team finish strong and then make a dent in both Shorelines and states this year. He calls those “short-term goals.” Warren also has a few long-term goals that include boosting the program’s numbers. The Warriors are fielding 24 players between their JV and varsity teams this year, and Coach Warren would like to more people join the program in future seasons.

In an effort to drum up more excitement on the local level, the Valley girls’ soccer team recently hosted a youth clinic that saw more than 40 girls between 1st and 6th grade participate. Coach Warren sees more opportunities to grow the program going forward and make the future that much brighter for the Warriors.

“I’ve lived in the town. I have a young family. I’ve always had an affiliation with the town. I’ve wanted to support it. The opportunity [to come back and coach] came about,” Warren said. “There’s a drop in female participation in soccer. It’s something I want to bring back a bit.”